If you're looking to expand your business and sell in one of Amazon's other online marketplaces outside your base country, then you're in the right place. Understanding the industry, legal, and Amazon guidelines for each market is the key to knowing how to operate in Amazon international markets to grow your business globally.
Currently, Amazon has marketplaces in 13 countries on three continents and includes the following regions and cities:
Asia – Pacific
It's not just a matter of ensuring you are marketing the right products to your new markets in a language and format that suits them. In short, the process is complex.
Although selling internationally on Amazon has a host of benefits, such as gaining immediate reach to potential customers who already trust Amazon and eliminating the high costs of building an international business from scratch, there are a lot of considerations, prep, and legal hoops you will need to jump through to do it properly and legally.
To branch out to an international marketplace, you will need to create separate seller accounts for each country you wish to expand in or create a unified account per region – which we will go into further detail later in the post. Plus, you will need to do various things, depending on the country you plan to sell in, to make sure you are legal to sell in that marketplace.
In this guide, we will outline what you need to know about how to operate in Amazon's international markets.
Business and Legal Considerations of Operating in Amazon's International Markets
The legal aspects and business requirements of selling in that country. This goes beyond ensuring you are paying the correct taxes and following Amazon's rules for the fulfillment, etc. It’s about understanding the country’s business laws and following them to the letter.
In many cases, especially in European marketplaces, this may include registering a business in that foreign country. And with that, there are many i's to dot and t's to cross. For instance, when using FBA to sell in Europe, you must register for VAT in the UK and Spain; the bureaucratic process can get very tricky to navigate, so do your homework.
You also need to consider the culture of the market you're looking to enter and ensure your products not only appeal to shoppers there but that your marketing won't offend, mislead or upset that audience. For example, what works for your US Amazon account and shopper may not be appropriate and effective in Germany or Japan.
Tax Considerations of Operating in Amazon's International Markets
With the legal and business differences come different tax laws per region, and it's imperative that you follow the rules of the foreign market you're entering. These differences are pretty considerable.
For example, as a foreign seller on Amazon.com who is not a registered US taxpayer, you must provide Amazon with a Form W-8BEN to be exempt from US tax reporting requirements. In Europe, you will need to register for VAT, depending on where you store your inventory or the revenue you earn. Plus, if you are a US seller selling in our markets, you must also pay US tax on international income.
As you can see, tax is essential to growing your international business and should not be taken lightly. You can find Amazon's list of tax information resources below:
- UK Imports and purchases from abroad: paying and reclaiming VAT (English)
- Italy Agenzia Entrate (Italian)
- German Federal Ministry of Finance (English)
- Spain Agencia Tributaria (Spanish)
- France Foreign companies: Your tax obligations in France (English)
- Europe Taxation and Customs Union (English)
Bottom line: you want to consult an accountant in your home country or in that of the country you will be selling in, who is familiar with the international business, helping ensure you fully understand the tax implications.
Fulfillment Considerations of Operating in Amazon's International Markets
Another big step in operating in Amazon's international markets is ensuring that your fulfillment is within that marketplace's guidelines for fulfillment and the country you plan on selling in. The most important consideration is that when selling in a foreign market and shipping from your own country, you will be the exporter on record and need to find ways to counteract any customs or shipping delays that may arise to avoid bad reviews. Plus, shipping internationally will be more expensive as you also have to consider customs taxes and duties.
However, Amazon does provide a form of FBA (such as Amazon's European Fulfillment Network – EFN) for each of its marketplaces, which will help take a lot of the logistics weight off your shoulders. It will allow you to export in bulk to save costs while helping you fulfill orders from countries closer to your selling destination.
Furthermore, multi-channel management software such as StoreAutomator will be a must in managing your channels and inventory and easily customize product data (override shipping/handling costs) per channel.
Customer Service Considerations of Operating in Amazon's International Markets
Regarding customer service, the most prominent Amazon international markets operation must-do is providing customer service in the native language of the country you are selling in. So if you're selling in Germany, you need to be able to support your customers there in German. To achieve that, you need to hire a native speaker to help with your foreign business or use Amazon's local FBA, which will domestically cover your customer service in that country.
Remember to ensure that all your Amazon product listings are translated to the country's language. Therefore you will need to provide a professional translator.
Bonus: How to Operate in Amazon's International Markets with Unified Accounts
Amazon's unified accounts allow sellers to create one account per region instead of having separate accounts per country. Amazon has two unified accounts:
- Amazon European Marketplaces: UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain
- North American Unified Account: US, Canada, and Mexico
Each of these unified accounts differs slightly. For instance, with a North American account, you can create listings across all marketplaces within it without duplicating listings or having to switch accounts while providing a single interface. With the European account, you must copy listings and be aware that account fees will be determined by which European country you first registered.
In a nutshell, you need to have all your ducks in a row and do your research. Extending your business into foreign markets is tricky, particularly within Europe.
In the case of Europe, not only will you need to consider taxes, business laws, and everything we've mentioned in this post, but you will need to be aware of European product compliance and consumer rights, parallel importation, environment, health and safety standards, intellectual property rights, and marking and labeling requirements. Additionally, some importation regulations may differ between countries in the EU and will be heavily dependent on your choice of shipping mode.
Here's a step-by-step guide to getting you started:
Step 1: Select your home (primary) marketplace
Step 2: Choose between FMB or FBA fulfillment
Step 3: Research all legal obligations or hire an expert in European business logistics
Step 4: Register for EORI and VAT numbers
Step 5: Adapt listings and copy them to the home language
We suggest starting with Amazon's Comprehensive Guide for Amazon Global Selling (AGS) before diving into any new markets. Also, it's essential to have your management software up and running to ensure efficient multi-channel selling. Stay tuned for more comprehensive guides on each region and country.